Does control affect the stress response

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Does control affect the stress response
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refuse to draw upon any help when under stress. In fact, this is implicit within some of
the measures of hostility with responses to statements such as ‘No one cares much what
happens to me’. Hostility may also relate to coping as believing that ‘It is safer to trust
nobody’ could be seen to reflect an avoidant coping style.
The effect of control on the stress–illness link has also been extensively studied.
What is control?
Control has been studied within a variety of different psychological theories.
1 Attributions and control. Kelley’s (1967, 1971) attributional theory examines
control in terms of attributions for causality (see Chapter 2 for a discussion of
attribution theory). If applied to a stressor, the cause of a stressful event would be
understood in terms of whether the cause was controllable by the individual or not.
For example, failure to get a job could be understood in terms of a controllable
cause (e.g. ‘I didn’t perform as well as I could in the interview’, ‘I should have
prepared better’) or an uncontrollable cause (e.g. ‘I am stupid’, ‘the interviewer was
2 Self-efficacy and control. Control has also been discussed by Bandura in his selfefficacy theory (Bandura 1977). Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s confidence to
carry out a particular behaviour. Control is implicit in this concept.
3 Categories of control. Five different types of control have been defined by
Thompson (1986): behavioural control (e.g. avoidance), cognitive control (e.g.
reappraisal of coping strategies), decisional control (e.g. choice over possible outcome), informational control (e.g. the ability to access information about the
stressor) and retrospective control (e.g. ‘Could I have prevented that event from
4 The reality of control. Control has also been subdivided into perceived control (e.g. ‘I
believe that I can control the outcome of a job interview’) and actual control (e.g.
‘I can control the outcome of a job interview’). The discrepancy between these two
factors has been referred to as illusory control (e.g. ‘I control whether the plane
crashes by counting throughout the journey’). However, within psychological theory,
most control relates to perceived control.
Does control affect the stress response?
Research has examined the extent to which the controllability of the stressor influences
the stress response to this stressor, both in terms of the subjective experience of stress
and the accompanying physiological changes.
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